Richard Prince's Journal-isms™

Talkin' 'Bout the Blues Breaks the Ice

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Obama Targets Arabs in First TV Interview as President

Hisham Melhem, left, Washington bureau chief for the al Arabiya satellite channel, says he found President Obama to be 'a man who has a deep, keen intellect, a sharp analytical mind, supple intelligence.'Barack Obama's first televised interview as president went to the Arab satellite news channel al Arabiya, and the new chief executive and his interviewer, Washington bureau chief Hisham Melhem, broke the ice on Monday by talking about Chicago blues.

"Take us behind the scenes, Hisham, off-camera, what was he like when you spoke with him?" Wolf Blitzer asked Melhem Tuesday on CNN's "The Situation Room."

"He was really cool. And he was very friendly. He felt at home. I told him that we share an abiding love of Chicago blues. And he just beamed and we began to talk for a couple of minutes about Chicago blues," Melhem replied.

"And I asked him about his two daughters. Told him about my daughter who happened to be a volunteer and worked for him. And so he felt at home. I felt at ease. He puts you at ease."

"BLITZER: He can be a pretty charming guy. Is that what you think?

"MELHEM: He - absolutely, absolutely. But, you know, you realize, you're sitting from a man who has a deep, keen intellect, a sharp analytical mind, supple intelligence. And the way he weaves things, the way he frames issues, whether he's talking about terrorism, talking about different cultures, he has a very sophisticated understanding of the world.

"BLITZER: How is it going to be received in the Muslim and Arab world?

"MELHEM: Judging by the first quick reaction that we got on our Web site and the letters, the first reaction, the Arab media and others, especially what he said about the Muslim world, the way he spoke about Islam as a religion, when he said, 'members of my family were Muslims,' and I think that was his way of undermining those extremists, al Qaeda and others who are trying to demonize the United States.

"It's going to be extremely difficult for them. And he noted that - laughing, that these people are nervous because of me, because they cannot demonize a man whose full name is Barack Hussein Obama, who has tried to say, 'I'm extending a hand honestly,' who is speaking with clarity and honestly.

"And I think he's going to later on when he addresses the Muslim world from a Muslim capital - even if he shows them some tough love, he would say, 'look at my deeds, closing down Guantanamo, getting out of Iraq, sending Mitchell to the region, these are deeds that - can judge me by them,'" a reference to George Mitchell, the former senator from Maine named by Obama as his Mideast envoy.

The Los Angeles Times, for one, approved. It said of Obama, "His interview Tuesday with the Al Arabiya satellite channel laid a foundation for better U.S. relations with the Arab world than we've had in many years.

"Obama's savvy diplomacy started before he even opened his mouth, with his selection of Al Arabiya to air the first official television interview he has granted since taking office. Not only did this signal a new level of involvement in Middle Eastern affairs, but it gave a boost to a Saudi-owned news channel founded in 2003 to present a more balanced view of regional conflicts than was being produced by the more Islamist-leaning Al Jazeera network. The latter has since become more objective in its coverage, possibly because it was losing viewers to Al Arabiya. Now it has even more incentive to play fair: the chance of landing the next Obama exclusive."

  • Ali Akbar Dareini, Associated Press: Iran wants 'profound changes' in U.S. policy

Obama Reverses Bush on Access to Papers

"In his first year in office, President George W. Bush issued an executive order allowing presidents — and vice presidents — to claim privilege over their papers as long as they were still alive," Clint Hendler wrote Wednesday for the Columbia Journalism Review. "It also gave past presidents' families, or a series of designated representatives, the power to withhold documents. The order seemed to make it possible for a president to deny access in perpetuity, effectively reducing the National Archives to a taxpayer-funded private gatekeeper.

While no other attack on the Presidential Records Act drew as much ire from archivists, historians, and open government advocates as President Bush's 2001 order, Hendler continued, that act "which, by its very nature, seeks to limit presidential power—has never been an executive branch favorite. From Ronald Reagan, the first president subject to its reach, onwards, every administration has acted to curtail the PRA.

"That streak was broken one week ago, when, on his first full day in office, President Barack Obama signed a new executive order that wholly repealed Bush's executive order, essentially reverting to the standard established as Reagan left office."

Juan Williams Defends Comments About First Lady

Reaction was negative to Juan Williams' comments on 'The O'Reilly Factor'Fox News commentator Juan Williams maintained Wednesday that his remark comparing first lady Michelle Obama with Black Power advocate Stokely Carmichael was simply pointing out an image of her that was exemplified by an infamous cover of the New Yorker magazine last summer.

In an interview with Roland Martin on radio's syndicated "Tom Joyner Morning Show," Williams pointed to the storm created by the right wing when Obama said she had never been prouder to be an American than when her husband was successfully running for president. He also noted the New Yorker cover, which the magazine said was a satire of the images right-wingers were painting of the couple.

Williams maintained that his point was, "She's got to be careful about how she defines her role. . . . Too often people get their images distorted."

On Fox News' "O'Reilly Factor" on Monday night, Williams said of the first lady, "She's got this Stokely Carmichael-in-a-designer-dress thing going. If she starts talking . . . her instinct is to start with this blame America, you know, I'm the victim. If that stuff starts to coming out, people will go bananas and she'll go from being the new Jackie O. to being something of an albatross."

In the interview, Martin asked Williams whether those who crafted the "angry" image of Obama were not out to do her harm anyway, and Sybil Wilkes, one of Joyner's co-hosts, told Williams, "you're not helping it any to keep it going."

Williams replied, "my job is not to help," but to say, "here's what she's got to be careful of."

Williams' comments have been roundly criticized, with many linking them with previous positions he has taken and his employment by Fox News. He is also an analyst for National Public Radio.  

"Now, I've known Juan for more than 30 years," David Nicholson, a former Washington journalist who considers himself a fellow iconoclast, wrote on his blog. "We were students at Haverford College (he was several years behind me) and colleagues at The Washington Post. When Juan started as an intern at the paper in the mid-'70s (I was a copy-boy on the Metro Desk), he stayed at my apartment while he looked for a place to live. Over the years, we've wound up in the same neighborhoods — first Washington's Bloomingdale-Le Droit Park and then Takoma, D.C, where we'd see each other walking our dogs or hanging out with our kids.

"So I've known Juan for a while. But apart from the need to be provocative so he can continue as Fox News' HNIC (Google the term if you've never heard it), what the hell was he thinking?"

Unscientific Survey Finds Life After Newspapers

Ricardo Pimentel"There is life after newspapers. But it's not always the life the journalists had expected," concludes Robert Hodierne, an associate professor of journalism at the University of Richmond, commenting on an unscientific, self-selected survey of 595 people who say they left newspaper editorial jobs.

Hodierne published his results in the December/January issue of American Journalism Review. Of the 595, just 22 were black, 16 Hispanic and 17 Asian, too small a sample from which to draw conclusions. Another seven identified as "other."

The low numbers of journalists of color make the survey less useful in measuring the impact of the cutbacks on diversity. "Absent hard data, it might be hard to argue that journalists of color are suffering disproportionately from the cuts," Ricardo Pimentel, president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, said in an interview with Gregory Favre of the Poynter Institute posted on Tuesday. 

"But here's what else we know: There are already too few Latinos in journalism. . . .  When you lose folks you have too few of anyway, it has to hurt the considerable contributions this kind of diversity affords a newsroom."

Of his survey, Hodierne wrote, "Many of the respondents have found new jobs. It's too early to tell about those who lost their jobs within the past year, but for those who did so between 1999 and 2007:

  • "Just under 36 percent said they found a new job in less than three months. Add those who say they freelance full time, and the total jumps to 53 percent.
  • "Less than 10 percent say it took them longer than a year.
  • "Only a handful ‚Äî 6 percent ‚Äî found other newspaper jobs. The rest are doing everything from public relations to teaching to driving a bus and clerking in a liquor store.
"While they've found work, many of the people with new jobs are making less money. The midpoint salary range for their old jobs was $50,000 to $59,000. Those who listed salaries for their new jobs were a full salary band lower — $40,000 to $49,000.

"Here's another surprise: While the overwhelming majority — 85 percent — say they miss working at a paper, they are often happier in their new jobs. Sixty-two percent tell us they had been satisfied in their old newspaper jobs; 78 percent report being satisfied in their new jobs."

Pimentel, in his interview, unveiled another surprise. "Our membership is actually up, from 2,160 in 2007 to 2,370 in 2008. I think it's probably because of a keen effort on behalf of the board and the staff to keep membership up and an acknowledgment in these tough times that we're an organization worth belonging to."  

Washington Post Ending Printed Book World

Marie Arana The Washington Post is ending the print edition of its Sunday Book World tabloid, Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli told staffers on Wednesday.

"Starting on Feb. 22, our book coverage will appear in Style throughout the week and in the Outlook section on Sundays. We will end Book World's run as a stand-alone print section but will revamp and rebrand our books section online as Book World, where we'll offer readers a robust, well-organized site dedicated to our coverage and reviews of books," he said.

Marie Arana, longtime Book World editor and onetime board member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, told Journal-isms via e-mail:

"It's very sad to see the closing of the print edition of Book World. It's been a marvelous institution for a very long time and I am proud to have been its editor. But, as Heroclitus once said, 'Nothing endures but change.' The Post needs to adapt to a changing world. And that world is online.

"If Book World can build its brand on The Post's website, as I suspect it will do handsomely, the reapportioning of its print content throughout the print paper will matter very little."

Arana took a buyout from the Post last year but remains a contract writer.

House Votes Down Bill Postponing Switch to Digital

"Bucking the Obama administration, House Republicans on Wednesday defeated a bill to postpone the upcoming transition from analog to digital television broadcasting to June 12 — leaving an estimated 6.5 million U.S. households unprepared for the currently scheduled Feb. 17 switchover," Joelle Tessler reported for the Associated Press.

"But the battle over a delay may not be over, with some predicting the House will take up the measure again next week.

"Wednesday's 258-168 House vote failed to clear the two-thirds threshold needed for passage in a victory for GOP members, who warn that postponing the transition by four months would confuse consumers."

Nielsen Media Research had reported that 94 percent of households were ready for the digital switch, but close to 10 percent of African-American and Hispanic households were "totally unready."

In Latest Incarnation, Imus Drops Ethnic Humor

"Don Imus makes no excuses for his offensive remarks about the Rutgers women's basketball team, but says: 'I deserved a second chance,'" David Bauder wrote Monday for the Associated Press.

"He's 14 months into that second chance, trying to make the most of it. The new 'Imus in the Morning' has key differences from the old one in tone and is certainly different visually, with the addition of two comedians who are black, Karith Foster and Tony Powell.

"Imus, 68, works now for the ABC Radio Networks and rural RFD-TV after being fired by CBS Radio and MSNBC in spring 2007 for referring to the Rutgers women as 'nappy-headed hos.'

"Although NBC News cut him loose, both top NBC anchor Brian Williams and chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd appeared on Imus' show during the past two weeks. The hard-edged, ethnically based humor is largely gone; Imus said he had felt pressure from his old bosses to be more shocking, like Howard Stern or Opie & Anthony. The innocents, like women basketball players who didn't ask or deserve to be part of his world, are now off-limits.

"Michael Harrison, publisher of the trade journal Talkers magazine . . . estimates that Imus is on about the same or even more radio stations than he was before. While Harrison said his influence has dwindled — 'you don't hear about him as much as you did' — last fall's Imus-curated CD benefiting his ranch for young cancer patients was a surprise best-seller."


Lacking legal documents, a North Korean defector code-named "Black" eluded official questioning during his harrowing 40-hour rail journey by pretending to be asleep or intoxicated. (Credit: Chien-Chi Chang, National Geographic)

Reporter Follows Korean "Underground Railroad"

National Geographic magazine reporter Tom O'Neill followed three North Korean defectors' journeys along the "underground railroad" to South Korea and describes the experience in the magazine's February issue.

One of the defectors, "whom he gave the code name Black, crossed the Tumen River to China and hid in a church in Yanji. With missionaries' help, he took a 40-hour train from Beijing to Kunming. From there, he was driven to the Golden Triangle, where he hiked through mountains and jungle to cross into Laos. Finally, he took a boat across the Mekong River to Thailand and applied for asylum in South Korea," as National Public Radio described the journey in a story on Tuesday.

African Journalists With AIDS Form Own Network

Journalists living with HIV/AIDS in the East African countries of Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda have "established a network of Journalists Living with HIV/AIDS (JLWHA)" whose "purpose is to collectively promote a vibrant media fully engaged in the response" to the epidemic, one of the journalists, Elvis Basudde of Uganda, wrote Sunday for the New Vision newspaper in his county's capital, Kampala.

During a week-long meeting, "The journalists resolved to put journalistic living with HIV/AIDS at the centre of the fight since they had a story to tell everyday of their lives," Basudde wrote.

"They said they want to be at the forefront of the fight and publicly give testimonies regarding their status.

"They also vowed to sensitise more journalists on issues of care, protection, support and treatment."

Of the 2.5 million people living with the HIV virus, he said, 95 percent live in developing nations.

Apparently, no comparable support group of journalists living with AIDS exists in the United States, although some prominent journalists, such as ABC-TV anchor Max Robinson and Thomas Morgan, a president of the National Association of Black Journalists, have succumbed to the disease.

Short Takes

  • "Saudi Prince Sultan bin Fahd bin Abdulaziz made an unexpected phone call last week to a live talk show on a Saudi sports channel," Kamel Labidi wrote Wednesday for the Committee to Protect Journalists. "The prince made the angry call to Al-Riyadiyya from Mascat, Oman, on January 17 after he'd watched Oman's national soccer team defeat Saudi Arabia in the Gulf Cup. . . . 'You had better keep silent,' warned the prince, who heads the Saudi Youth Welfare. 'Because I can no longer tolerate your attitude. If you are not polite enough, then I can educate you myself,' he told the TV commentators before abruptly hanging up on them and their host. . . The threat came as a reminder of the intolerance to critical thinking Saudi journalists face every day."

  • "The Palestinian Authority (PA) has detained at least three journalists in the West Bank since Saturday, according to local news reports and journalists who spoke to CPJ," the Committee to Protect Journalists said¬†on Tuesday. "Since June 2007, when Hamas seized control of Gaza and PA President Mahmoud Abbas dissolved the Palestinian government, journalists and publications alike have become pawns in an internal power struggle. In the West Bank, the PA has maintained a ban on the distribution of publications that it perceives to be pro-Hamas. The de-facto Hamas government in Gaza has taken similar steps. Fatah, the dominant political faction in the PA, has frequently detained journalists who have not [toed] the official Fatah line."

  • "The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee ‚Äî the campaign arm of House Democrats ‚Äî is telling its supporters to 'Stand Strong Against Rush Limbaugh,' and sign an online petition to 'tell Rush what you think of his attacks on President Obama,' Radio Ink reported¬†on Wednesday. "The DCCC is responding to remarks made by Limbaugh last week saying, 'If I wanted Obama to succeed, I'd be happy the Republicans have laid down. I don't want this to work. So I'm thinking of replying to the guys, OK, I'll send you a response, but I don't need 400 words, I need four: I hope he fails.'"

  • In Memphis, "WMC-TV has named longtime reporter Ursula Madden to replace Donna Davis on the anchor desk," Jody Callahan reported¬†Tuesday in the Memphis Commercial Appeal. Davis was let go in December as part of budget cutbacks. Madden, 37, has been with WMC for 10 years.

  • Rene Astudillo"Former AAJA Executive Director Rene Astudillo has been selected as the new executive director of the Lupus Foundation of Northern California," the Asian American Journalists Association reported¬†on Wednesday. "The LFNC's mission is to be a premier source of information on lupus by providing programs and services designed to educate and increase the knowledge of those affected by lupus, promote lupus awareness, and support external lupus research efforts."
  • Emily Chang is joining John Vause as CNN's second correspondent in Beijing, CNN announced on Wednesday. Chang "boosts CNN‚Äôs presence in China at a time when many media outlets are reducing their coverage in the post-Olympic climate. Chang has already reported on a variety of stories including the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, the tainted milk scandal and the effects of the global financial crisis on China."
  • "Newport Television's NBC affiliate WAOI San Antonio, Texas (DMA 37), will offer Mexicanal Network's Spanish-language lineup of regional news, sports, popular entertainment and culturally relevant programs from regions throughout Mexico on a digital subchannel beginning this month," TV Newsday reported¬†on Wednesday.

  • At a recent meeting with the Iraqi journalists' union, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki made a pledge that would have scandalized the Iraqis' American counterparts: the government would give plots of land to thousands of journalists, for a nominal price or possibly even free," Campbell Robertson reported¬†Tuesday for the New York Times.

  • In Tunisia, "Plainclothes police surrounded the offices of a newly launched satellite radio station and detained one of its journalists on Tuesday, according to local journalists. Police continued their siege of the station today," the Committee to Protect Journalists reported on Wednesday. "The journalist, Dhafer Otay of Radio Kalima, said he was held for four hours and then released without charge. Officers prevented him and his colleagues from entering the Tunis offices of their independent satellite radio station. In a written response to CPJ's highly critical September 2008 special report on Tunisia, 'The Smiling Oppressor,' the government insisted that Tunisia's media landscape under Ben Ali's 21-year rule was 'liberal and pluralistic.' This response came amid rising attacks on critical papers and journalists, particularly Kalima and its editorial team."

Richard Prince's Journal-isms originates from Washington and is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It began in print before most of us knew what the Internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a "column." For newcomers: The words in blue (on most computers) are links leading to more information. The Web site provides passwords and user names to some registration-only news sites, but use may be illegal in some states. Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.

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David Nicholson & Juan Williams made for each other...

I found David Nicholson's eagerness to slam Juan Williams displayed and echoed the same cheap shot themes of Juan's drive by attacks on Michelle Obama...One thing is apparent about David and Juan since they share some common history both express a level of ethics we all can ignore...

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